going out on a limb / by Philip Tarlow

                                                                       5/27/18 plein air oil  20x20"  oil on canvas

2:59 PM: so here's what i did today. it was an experiment to see if i could get the same level of sensitivity & painterliness with this less expensive cotton canvas as i can with the very expensive portrait linen. i can't. but there's a different, possibly equally compelling quality. makes me understand better some of courbet's landscapes. i worked in a way that's unfamiliar to me in my plein air paintings. generally in making plein air paintings i'm in a very meditative space, in touch with my chinese 10th century calligraphic mark making self. today was more active. vital shifts and sudden changes of pace occurred as i worked, painting out some passages, trying solutions until the very last minute, in a way that usually happens only in a studio painting.

i'm still taking prescription codeine for the post op pain, so that may have made my anger more extreme, but almost as soon as i sat down to paint, after squeezing my colors, a couple with a dog appeared, on a sunday walk to the stupa. the dog made a bee line for me, jumped all over me and nearly knocked over the easel, with my palette & the fresh canvas. i patiently explained that painting for me is a meditation, and could they please put a leash on their dog. twenty minutes later they reappeared & the dog once again jumped all over me, totally interrupting my work. i kind of exploded and yelled "get this dog off me!!" not the best environment for painting. it's much more private, especially on a sunday, up at north crestone creek, which is where i'll be going from now on

as for the painting. aside form the fact that it was somewhat of a struggle working on an unresponsive canvas, my attempt to transmit more of a sense of space & depth was only successful in a limited way. i have to sit with it for 24 hours & chill in order to make a full evaluation. but what i do see is that i can accomplish my goal, which you can read about below in my 10:13 AM post. the only real impediment, once i eliminate the dog & hiker interruptions & start going to the more remote north crestone creek location, are the bugs, which have begun appearing in the form of flies. mosquitoes usually don't start up till mid-june, and likely won't be too bad this year since, due to the drought,  there's very little standing water for them to breed.

that said, i actually way prefer the 20x20" canvas to the 16x16" i've been using for my plein air oils for years. it feels more like an actual painting, less like an oil sketch.

10:13 AM: this morning i awoke with continued swelling & pain from the 2 molar extractions i underwent this past thursday, but feeling enough energy to contemplate going out to the creek with one of my newly stretched 20x20" canvases. i say going out on a limb in part because it's a cute pun and in part because i've never before gone to such lengths to meet the vision of a gallery owner/director.

of course all that i do when painting is ultimately for me;  towards the unfolding of my vision as an artist. but this time it's a little different. i'm intent on becoming a member of a denver gallery that i like a lot and am willing to go the extra mile to be in alignment with the rather specific vision of the owner/director and begin producing a particular kind of landscape she knows will fill a gap in what her stable of artists can offer.

i see it as a rather interesting challenge.

when i showed her abstracted landscapes such as the ones you see here in my studio, they were almost what she had in mind, but not quite; a bit too abstracted, not allowing the viewer to place him/herself spatially. not enough foreground/middle ground/background.

normally, when i sally forth into the creek-scape, i have a blank mind. it's like a zen meditation. it's unusual for me to have something so specific in mind. but because it's a shift, i like it. i like the challenge. as usual, i don't feel attached to the results, yet in a way i do.

i found these 2 plein air gouaches on paper, painted at the creek last year, which are also in the photo of the studio wall, above. perhaps they come closest to what she described because, more so than most of the others, they do offer the viewer a place in space; a sense of where they are in relation to the landscape.

that doesn't mean what i do today will look anything like these 2 small gouaches. i have no idea what will come out of todays session. rather than going to north crestone creek, as i have been most recently, i think i'll go instead to a location at the base of the trail up to tashi gomang stupa. they're re-paving the road up to north crestone trail, so i'll wait till they're done sometime this week. i've stretched 6 20x20" canvasses, which will be enough to choose the right ones to make larger; probably 36x38." on our next denver trip, i'll bring those along to show the gallery.